Lions rejects aren’t doing too badly

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iol spt feb25 Lions Gallo Images Jacques van der Westhuyzen says what the Lions have achieved in the last two weeks is quite remarkable. Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images

It was their first victory over the Stormers since 2006 and it was also their biggest win yet in Super Rugby, eclipsing the 30-7 win achieved against the Hurricanes in 2007. And that with a team with just one Springbok – Franco van der Merwe, who has earned just one Test cap.

The Stormers, on the other hand, had six Springboks in their starting team on Saturday and, generally, far more experience than the Lions. Yes, we have had just two rounds of Super Rugby, but what the Lions have achieved in these last two weeks is quite remarkable. It has been the classic story of David slaying Goliath.

Johan Ackermann’s men were superior in most departments against the Stormers on Saturday but a close look at the squad reveals just how astonishing their two wins have been. The personnel used by Ackermann is a mix of men who have been rejected by other unions, others who have fought off career-threatening injuries and still others who wouldn’t get a look-in anywhere else in the country.

And, on top of that, Ackermann himself has only a few years’ coaching experience so, in many respects, he’s still a rookie himself.

Besides the fact that 12 players in the 23-man squads that have featured in the last two weeks went into this season with no Super Rugby experience, the Lions beat the Cheetahs and Stormers with the following men in the ranks:

Among the backs, fullback Chrysander Botha, in his debut Super Rugby season, was playing Varsity Cup rugby a year ago; centre Stefan Watermeyer was deemed surplus to requirements at the Bulls in 2011 and has since featured for Griquas and the Pumas before breaking into the Lions team; Marnitz Boshoff was also not considered good enough for the Bulls in 2011 and didn’t make it at Griquas; while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, just 1.69m tall and weighing 66 kg, would hardly get a look-in at a bigger union.

In the forwards, the front row of Schalk van der Merwe (rejected by the Cheetahs), Robbie Coetzee (rejected by the Bulls) and Julian Redelinghuys (rejected by the Sharks) are in their first seasons of Super Rugby, while lock Franco Mostert was another to be overlooked by the Bulls. On the bench in the last two weeks, prop Jacques van Rooyen was playing club rugby a year ago and flank Warwick Tecklenburg was let go by the Bulls.

It just goes to show that if one doesn’t fit in, or get into the coach’s good books at one union, there’s always a chance of being successful at another.

It also shows that if players are hungry enough for success and back their abilities, there’s no reason why they cannot excel elsewhere. - The Star

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